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CHIEF JUSTICE DOLLO CAUTIONS NABBANJA: YOUR INTERFERENCE IN OUR WORK WILL BE RESISTED 

By Mulengera Reporters 

The Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo has vowed to respond to clear provocation that was on Monday directed at the Mengo Chief Magistrates Court by none other than the Prime Minister of the Republic Robinah Nabanja. On Monday 21st October, the Prime Minister raided the chambers of Grade I Magistrate Amon Mugezi, took over the judicial officer’s office and even chaired a televised meeting there.

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In total disregard of the doctrine of judicial independence and separation of powers (reminiscent of Amin’s days), Nabanja even had guts to demand that the Magistrate explains how he arrived at a judicial decision that culminated into a Kampala poor woman Gertrude Nalule getting sentenced to a six months jail term over civil debt-related disputes between her and Godfrey Bazaale who is her neighbor in Namungona-Kigobe zone.

Nalule is a widow with seven children who she has single-handedly been raising having lost her husband in a 2014 motor accident. During the COVID lockdown, her earnings got constrained prompting her to keep obtaining financial help from Bazaale which in the end accumulated to Shs7m. When she failed to pay, Bazaale cajoled her into unknowingly signing up to something which she didn’t know amounted to a sell agreement in relation to her house in the same neighborhood of Namungona.

Bazaale offered to add her Shs3m to become Shs10m so that the property fully becomes his. Nalule grumbled and refused accepting the Shs3m because she was apparently not prepared to lose her property at such a giveaway price. The matter ended up at the Mengo Magistrates Court whose Amon Magezi ruled against Nalule against whom a six months jail sentence was handed down on Friday 18th November. On watching the entire thing on TV news, Nabanja (who likes calling herself Majegere) hit the roof and vowed to intervene.

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The Premier was intrigued that the poor widow (whose plight she says epitomizes the suffering of many similarly-placed ordinary women) had lost her entire residential property at just Shs10m on top of having to pay up another Shs2.88m to Bazaale. Wondering which type of judicial system this was becoming, the inadvisable Nabanja plotted to intervene and indeed on Monday stormed the Magistrate’s Court where she demanded for answers while humiliating the judicial officer whose performance of duty the law overtly protects.

Being a fisherwoman, as Museveni fondly calls her, Nabanja may not have known that there are clearly laid down procedures through which one shows displeasure at a judicial officer’s actions, omissions or decisions that anyone might perceive as being erroneous and inappropriate. The best way is to appeal against the decision in the court of higher jurisdiction as a way of showing displeasure. That’s the way it’s done regardless of who one is.

Even if it was President Museveni displeasured, the law doesn’t permit him storming the judicial officer’s chambers or work place and begin blasting him or her from there infront of media cameras. You simply facilitate the aggrieved party whose plight you are concerned with to appeal to a higher court authority and have the matter resolved there (Nabanja can personally not appeal since she wasn’t part to the dispute but can facilitate Nalule to do so). Even Idi Amin, at his crudest, wouldn’t be excused or justified acing the way Rt. Hon Nabanja did.

DOLLO SWINGS:

It’s against that background that Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo has responded by rallying his forces (all judicial officers) not to be cowed but to prepare to vigorously push back against the Nabanja-like provocations that will most likely be continuing to come their way in the course of their duties.

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During the Monday bust up, Nabanja (who came with lawyers from the AG chambers) rejected all the legal explanations Amon Mugezi put across and insisted that the judicial officer didn’t act in good faith.

Like the lay person she always proudly professes to be, Nabanja asserted that not even Nalule’s refusal to come to Court to defend herself would justify a judicial decision that gives away someone’s residential property in such a prime neighborhood at just Shs10m. The Premier also demanded to know why the Magistrate didn’t do enough to authenticate the involvement of LC1 officials. In the end, she declared the entire Court decision and the preceding land transaction “null and void.”  Just like that!

The humiliation Amon Mugezi endured before media cameras has since attracted a lot of solidarity for him from fellow judicial officers at all levels namely Magistrates, High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court justices. On the whatsapp forums exclusively for judicial officers, there has been implosion of anger demanding that Alfonse Owiny Dollo’s leadership of the judiciary arm of government finally manifests-and now or never.

One of the things he must do is to deliberately engage with the apex leadership of the Executive to achieve some de-escalation to tame growing anxiety and impending implosion among his own judicial officers who point at consistent attacks from leaders of other arms of government.

Nabanda, who the AG lawyers inside the Monday meeting seemed too timid to correct, also attempted to lecture the Magistrate on the way she understands judicial independence and separation of powers which she said can’t be synonymous with judicial officers proclaiming anti-people decisions which don’t make sense to the ordinary members of the public.

The Chief Justice has since demanded that Amon Mugezi writes to him a detailed brief on what exactly happened so that he can depend on that to determine the most appropriate way to respond. He has equally implored judicial officers not to be cowed by Nabanja-like attacks but to instead carry on with their work in accordance with the law and the oath they took at the inception of their respective careers. He also used the same memo to assure all judicial officers that, as their overall boss and supervisor, he remains prepared to vigorously defend them both privately and in public.

Imagine the chambers that the naturally very belligerent Premier raided, and proceeded to chair a meeting from inside there, belonged to an equally belligerent militant like Justice Faith Mwondha or even Dr. Easter Kisakye, Ugandans would right now be dealing with totally different outcomes. It was very helpful that, being the gentleman he is, the mild-tempered Magistrate Amon Mugezi responded with decorum and maximum restraint. All said and done, facing off with Dollo could expose Nabanja to having to take on many more prolonged battles (with a lot more interested powerful groups) than she could have imagined when she drove to the Mengo Court.

Lawyers uniting under law society, judicial officers’ associations, CSOs groups, liberal-minded legislators and the development partner community will most likely be pushing back necessarily not because they are happy with the way Nalule was treated but simply because they are appalled over the crudeness with which the country’s Prime Minister raided Court premises as if there was no other way to register her displeasure with Magistrate Amon Mugezi’s actions or omissions which she considered wrongful.  (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us atmulengera2040@gmail.com).

 

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